Five textbook publishers have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against pirate site Library Genesis (LibGen) seeking for the operation to be shut down and the site’s domain names blocked.
LibGen is a pirate website that gives users free access to copyrighted works such as academic journal articles that would otherwise be paywalled or not digitised elsewhere. According to the complaint, the site attracts in excess of nine million visitors per month on average from the US alone. Its operators are anonymous.
The plaintiffs in the case filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York are Cengage Learning; Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing Group; Macmillan Learning, McGraw Hill and Pearson Education.
Their complaint claims that LibGen has “copied thousands, if not tens of thousands or more, of [the] plaintiff’s works for inclusion in their massive, illegal collection".
It reads: “Operating as an illegal ’shadow library’, LibGen enables users to download, for free, fiction and nonfiction books (among other types of works), including educational textbooks, instead of buying or renting lawful copies or checking them out from a legitimate library.
"The scale of Defendants’ infringement is staggering. LibGen maintains an enormous collection of infringing works that anyone with an internet connection can access. This collection consists of over six million files that include illegal copies of works from a diverse cross-section of the publishing industry. For Plaintiffs alone, LibGen has over 20,000 files published by Plaintiffs—none of which Plaintiffs authorised Defendants to copy or distribute.”
On the anonymity of the site’s operators the suit goes on: "Defendants intentionally hide their identities to avoid the obvious consequences of their actions”, operating "multiple and ever-changing domains", and building in "multiple redundancies to protect their ability to illegally distribute copyrighted works". In 2017, Elsevier won an injunction against LibGen, winning $15m in damages and the transfer of "top-level domain registries" to Elsevier. However, "no defendants appeared on behalf of Libgen".